BY JUSTIN GILLETT
Since forming in 1999, the Philadelphia-based band Lotus has grown into one of the more prolific touring acts on the concert circuit. Blending a number of electronica and post-rock sensibilities, the group manages to create a distinctive style of jamtronica that continues to evolve. As Lotus gears up to play the Euphoria Music and Camping Festival in Austin, Texas, bassist Jesse Miller answers a few of our questions and clues us in on why he loves playing at 9:30 Club in Washington, D.C., what his life on the road is like, where he attended his first Ween concert and why he has a difficult time not spilling beer while watching !!!.
What type of preparations does Lotus typically undertake to prepare for a tour?
Band rehearsals, light rig designs, travel plans, making sure I bring enough socks.
Do you have a pre-show ritual?
I just like to make sure all my gear is functioning and drink a beer.
What’s a typical day like on the road?
Usually we have a couple hours before load-in starts, so trying to find the best coffee close by and getting outside if it is nice out is key in the morning. There is a lot of business beyond the show to take care of, such as planning and communication with our management, doing interviews, mixing live recordings – those things often happening in the early afternoon. Sound check usually happens around 4-6 p.m. After we finish checking, there is usually a break to meet up with local friends, get dinner or just rest up. Shows are usually from 10 p.m.-1 a.m. or so. Then, everything is broken down and packed back in the bus, trailer or truck. Drink a couple beers, sleep, drive, repeat.
How have your concerts changed or evolved since you first started playing live?
The production has grown from a small bar setup to a full audio and light rig with a team of crew members. Musically, I think we have gotten better at planning sets to give each show a structure and story. Even though we play long shows, we always want to leave people wanting more.
Is there a particular city with audiences that you look forward to playing for?
Denver, Chicago, Philly, D.C. and New York stand out to me. Those crowds always seem to have a lot of energy and that plays a big part in how we perceive our own performances.
Is there a venue with a great sound system you look forward to playing in?
9:30 Club in D.C. – the bass sounds so tight and full from where I’m standing on stage. I feel like if I can’t pull off the sound and control I want at that venue, then I wouldn’t be able to do it anywhere.
Do you have a preference of playing music festivals or concert venues?
Not in general – it really depends on what the festival or concert is. Playing big crowds is great, but playing in a more controlled theater environment for our own headlining show allows us to do more exploration and be very subtle with the music.
What is your first memory of playing a good live show?
I think expectations continually change. So, I’d say the first Lotus show I played with the band. If I continually thought that the shows weren’t good I don’t think I would have been able to continue playing very long. Finding a balance between appreciating what you are currently doing and striving to go further is a key element of being a performing musician.
Do you have a favorite group that has opened for you?
Not just one, but I’ll mention a few groups that have opened for us over the years that I really enjoy – Unwed Sailor, Grimace Federation, Moon Hooch, Lymbyc Systym, The Frequency.
Are you involved in selecting an opening band?
It really depends. Sometimes I make suggestions and often ideas are run by me, but promoters, management and booking are also heavily involved.
What was the first concert you went to?
The first big show was Big Head Todd and the Monsters with Ween at Red Rocks, maybe 1994.
Are there any musicians or bands that have influenced your performance style?
I think I glean a small amount of influence from everything I see and hear; from punk rock shows to classical performances. Music is a very visceral experience. Great performers use physical expressions (even if they are subtle) not just to express the music to the audience, but to feel it more deeply themselves. I think anything from a big gesture like jumping on an amp to something as small as closing your eyes can change a performance.
What was the last good concert you saw?
!!! (chk-chk-chk) was great the last time I saw them. I don’t do much dancing but I was getting down at that show, spilling beer all over myself in the process.
If you want to pretend for a minute that you know more than we do about music, go ahead, send us your thoughts. Hit us with your best shot, we dare you.